The Ford Ranger continues to impress customers across Sub Sahara Africa with its capabilities. Last week i had a chance to attend the Ford Ranger 2.2L Automatic launch in George, South Africa and this is my story.After a quick hop from OR Tambo International Airport to the sleepy seaside port of George, it was time to get acquainted with the new Ranger 2.2L Automatic variant. With the recent launch of the Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi L200 and the Isuzu DMax in the market, Ford finally included the automatic gearbox option on the 2.2L Ranger, which by the way is the best seller within the range.
What makes the new 6 Speed Auto Special?
The Ford Ranger’s strength lies with the summation of the following things: rigid body structure, powerful yet economical engine and superior ride comfort.The 6 speed auto works in sync with the revised 2.2L ‘Puma’ diesel engine to enable the driver to harness the full potential of the 88kW/285Nm (low power) or 92kw/330Nm (high) derivatives of the PUMA power unit.
Embedded in this gearbox is a ‘fuzzy logic’ computer unit that learns the driver’s intended inputs and shifts gears accordingly (via throttle inputs). Just in case you may need to have a sportier feel you can pre-select the gears manually via the Sport mode ‘Tip-Tronic’ option that enhances acceleration especially when tackling the Kinungi escarpment.
Ford designed an elaborate route so that we can fully experience the new gearbox both on and off-road. Once we arrived at George airport, myself and the rest of the Sub Saharan Africa media journalists were ushered in to the vehicles. With all the safety briefings done and dusted, we headed out towards the garden route, a challenging road network characterized by sharp twists and bends.
Pedal to the metal the free revving 2.2L Churned 330Nm of torque via the 6-Speed auto, that mimicked my driving style, optimizing upshifts by holding back gears to enhance acceleration. In typical Ranger style, the vehicle handled the sharp crests and curves with aplomb due to its front double wishbone and revised leaf spring suspension set up.
Sand dune experience
250 Kilometers later the convoy branched off to a sandy nature reserve near Pinnacle Point. Having sampled the Ranger in rock, mud and rut conditions previously, it was time to experience the new auto box in the most challenging surface, Sand.
This was indeed the true test of brain and brawn combined. The challenge was to power the Ranger up a 500-meter sand dune without getting stuck. I must say when driving through sand dunes, a lot of tact goes a long way; Drive too slow or have high steering input and you sink to oblivion. I immediately set the gearbox on 4-Low, deflated the tires and locked it in first gear. I gave it the beans, powering up the dune consistently while minimizing steering input all the way to the top and i made it!!!!
Moral of the story is the 6-speed automatic has sufficient gear ratios that allows you to exploit the 2.2L engine to its maximum
Ford has made a wise decision to introduce this new gearbox to enhance the Ranger range. Currently only the Mitsubishi L200 Triton has an automatic box option in the market. That said Isuzu will launch their automatic version soon in the market, followed by Toyota Hilux and the new Nissan Navara.